For game publishers, developing a massively multiplayer online game is almost like sticking cash into a $50 million slot machine. Once you've pulled the lever, all you can do is wait and watch as the numbers start to line up. Of course, thousands of variables are involved with MMO development, including the talent of the studio hired to make the game and the commitment the publisher has in making that game a success. Yet even with all of the talent in the world, you could end up like the unfortunate Ed McMahon: old, broke, and relying upon the charity of others to pay the bills.
In the case of NCsoft's Guild Wars, the slot machine rolled up with three of those big red sevens and millions of dollars came pouring back in to fill the coffers of the Korean-based company. Luck had little to do with this jackpot, and the quality of the content in Guild Wars - along with their "free-to-play" service - allowed them to sell over five million copies in just a few years.